Unearthed Arcana: Class Feature Variants

Hello! Anastasios here, and I’m back – with another Unearthed Arcana. This one is considerably late, but I’ve also been considerably busy so I hope you’ll forgive me.

This UA is an interesting one, because instead of new archetypes or races we get a “rebalancing” of the signature class features for many classes. Most gain new bonuses, but some are replaced entirely.

Proficiency Versatility

All classes get this. It allows you to swap one of you skill proficiencies when you get Ability Score Improvement.

Spells

Every spellcasting class gets a few more spells available to them. The expanded spell lists also include spells from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.

Spell Versatility

Bards, Rangers, Sorcerers, and Warlocks (so spellcasters who don’t prepare spells) can swap one of their spells whenever they gain a level, for a different spell of the same level. Gives you the option to replace a spell that isn’t working out as you wanted.

Cantrip Versatility

Completely analogous to Spell Versatility, this is for spellcasters who prepare their spells (and also have cantrips), so Clerics, Druids, and Wizards. In my opinion there are some cantrips that are irreplaceable, like Mage Hand and Prestidigitation, so I don’t expect this to actually see as much use as Spell Versatility.

Martial Versatility / Fighting Style

We get some new fighting styles, and classes that get them can replace a fighting style with another when you gain a level. As with spells and cantrips, versatility can allow you to experiment a bit with your fighting styles, or pick one that is stronger early on and switch it for something else as you level up. The new fighting styles are also very nice, including options for blind fighting, thrown weapons, unarmed attacks, and a defensive option that reduces damage dealt to allies next to you.

Barbarian

Survival Instincts

Replaces Danger Sense. You can get 2 more skill proficiencies, and you double your proficiency modifier for their rolls. Danger sense was a very, very powerful defensive tool, so I’d call this a downgrade – as a barbarian, you aren’t really interested in having a lot of skills.

Instinctive Pounce

Replaces Fast Movement. Fast Movement gives you a permanent +10 feet to your speed. Instinctive Pounce, however, allows you to use your reaction to move up to half your speed towards a creature that has ended its turn within 15 feet of you, without provoking attacks of opportunity. At a glance, it seems an improvement over the previous feature, but it comes with some important restrictions. You can’t use it out of combat, to run away, or even to chase enemies, since they will most likely be further than 15 feet away. However, when facing closely-packed groups, it can make a lot of difference.

Bard

Magical inspiration

Bardic Inspiration also applies to damage and healing from spells. Quite the strong enhancement, especially in the early levels.

Cleric

Harness Divine Power

You can expend a use of Channel Divinity to regain a 1st-level spell slot. Probably won’t see any use, but it’s nice to have the option.

Blessed Strikes

Replaces and combines Divine Strike and Potent Spellcasting for all clerics. A good decision in my opinion, streamlining the class and empowering both offensive options (weapons and spells) for clerics.

Druid

Wild Companion

You can use your Wild Shape to cast Find Familiar, but the familiar stays for a number of hours equal to your druid level instead of permanently. Familiars in general have a lot of uses, so you can get a lot of versatility and utility out of this enhancement.

Fighter

Fighting Style

Besides all the other fighting styles and martial versatility mentioned above, Fighters get an additional fighting style that allows them to learn one of the Battle Master’s maneuvers. While it’s a nice option to have, I think there are better fighting styles to pick.

Maneuver Versatility / Options

Battle Masters, and those who know maneuvers in general (either from the previous fighting style, or from the Martial Adept feat) can switch one maneuver every long rest, improving your versatility by leaps and bounds as it allows you to adapt to threats much more easily. You also get several new maneuvers, including, strangely enough, enhanced skill checks for Stealth, Deception, Persuasion, Insight, and Investigation, as well as some defensive and grappling options. Finally, we also get a maneuver for ranged attacks at last – it simply increases damage, but it also works for throws weapons, allowing you to draw one as part of the attack.

Monk

Monk Weapons

Rather than use the default definition of monk weapons, you can choose a number of weapons that are considered monk weapons, as long as you are proficient with them, and they aren’t heavy, special, or two-handed. This lets monks do some more stuff with weapons, similar to Kensei monks from Xanathar. 

Ki-Fueled Strike

Spending ki allows you to make an unarmed attack as a bonus action. You usually use your bonus action to do more useful stuff (including flurry of blows), but it can be exceptionally useful for monks that pick Way of the Four Elements, since they use their Ki to cast spells.

Ki Features

Monks also get two new ways to spend Ki: one for long-range attacks, and one for a bit of healing.

Paladin

Fighting Style Options

Paladins get their own fighting style that allows them to learn two cleric cantrips – and it comes packed with Cantrip Versatility as well. Paladins getting cantrips is kind of a big deal, and Sacred Flame will most likely be one of the two picks. If nothing else, you can always switch this out for a different Fighting Style later on, but I think this will see a lot of play.

Harness Divine Power

Exactly the same functionality as the Cleric – and my comments remain the same. Perhaps even less useful for Paladins, since they get less uses of Channel Divinity per rest than clerics.

Ranger

Ranger gets a ton of new stuff. Not unexpected, considering its history of being kind of a mess. These look like a good direction to head to though.

Deft Explorer

This replaces Natural Explorer. You get some skill proficiencies and languages, some extra mobility (5 extra feet of movement, climbing and swimming), and a way to generate temporary HP. An interesting part is also that your exhaustion level decreases by 1 every short rest – situational but powerful, considering how hard it is to get rid of exhaustion.

Favored Foe

This replaces Favored Enemy, and it’s quite simple. You know the Hunter’s Mark spell, and you can cast it a few times without expending a spell slot. Straightforward and quite good.

Fighting Style Options

In addition to the rest of the options and versatility, you get a fighting style giving you two druid cantrips – similar to the paladin one.

Spellcasting Focus

Nothing special – you can use a druidic focus as a spell focus. I don’t think many people keep track of this, to be honest, but again, good to have.

Primal Awareness

Replaces Primeval Awareness. You learn a bunch of divination spells that mostly have to do with communicating with nature, animals, et cetera. You can also cast each of them once without expending a spell slot per long rest. These sort of spells are quite situational, but with the free casts you can definitely use them quite often, and I think this is a much stronger feature than Primeval Awareness.

Fade Away

Replaces Hide in Plain Sight. No question, this is way better than before. You can become invisible for one turn as a bonus action, and you can use this ability once per short rest. This can obviously work great in battle, allowing you to surprise enemies or reposition without opportunity attacks, but it can also help you sneak past threats if you’re fast enough. Also works nicely with the extra mobility options from Deft Explorer.

Ranger Companion Options

We get a couple of options (more like stat templates) for a Beast Companion. One for flying and one for terrestrial beasts. They lack the special features a creature from the monster manual might have, but they have their own abilities and they scale with your level, so they are probably better in the long term. Plus you can bring them back to life at any point, so feel free to make them charge into enemies without fear or guilt!

Rogue

Cunning Action: Aim

I’m not really sure this was needed. In my opinion, this is a very very strong buff to the rogue. As a bonus action, and without moving during your turn, you can gain advantage to an attack roll. The results are obvious – besides the greatly increased chance to hit, you also have a reliable way to get a Sneak Attack every turn. This will also be amazing for ranged rogues, since they don’t need to move as much.

Sorcerer

Font of Magic Options

We get a few more ways to spend sorcery points. These include advantage to ability checks, making a non-magical weapon magical (without any attack or damage bonuses though), and gaining some temporary hit points. I think the ability check advantage will be used quite often, but i’m not sure about the other two.

Metamagic Options

We also get 3 new options for metamagic. One allows you to swap between types of damage for spells, if the spell deals elemental damage (acid, cold, fire, lightning, thunder), another allows you to ignore the effects of half and ¾ cover for spells that require a Dexterity saving throw, and finally perhaps the most powerful one, you can reroll a spell attack if you miss and use the second roll. You can also use this one even if you’ve already used metamagic on the spell.

Warlock

Eldritch Invocation Options

Warlocks get a bunch of new eldritch invocations, too many to look individually. They are 9 in total, and all of them are restricted to a specific Pact. Some of them are good, some of them are kinda meh, but I wouldn’t call any of them outright bad.

Pact Boon Option

We also get another Pact Boon, the Pact of the Talisman. You get an amulet that you, and interestingly enough anyone else, can wear. When you make an ability check with a skill you aren’t proficient in, you gain a 1d4 bonus in the roll. I don’t know how useful this can be – you get some decent upgrades with the new Eldritch Invocations, but in my opinion there are better pact boons, and better invocations to invest in as well.

Wizard

Wizards only get spell versatility and an expanded spell list, that I’ve talked about in the beginning.

Overall, I think that this is one of the best UAs recently, despite not technically adding a lot of new material. I think that you should definitely take it into account in future games – if nothing else, the Proficiency/Spell/Cantrip/Fighting Style/Maneuver Versatilities are very handy to have, while being a minor thing that doesn’t break the game.

You can read the full article here, and download the PDF here.

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